Events

Think Green Khutbah Campaign 2012

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In commemoration of Earth Day, Khaleafa.com has launched the ‘Think Green Khutbah Campaign’ to take place on Friday, April 20, 2012. The goal of this campaign is to challenge Muslims to become stewards of the environment by making changes to their daily routines.

To mark this event, we are encouraging mosques, schools, universities and Islamic Institutions to devote their Friday Khutbah to celebrate the blessings, graces and beauty of all of Allah’s creation and to raise awareness on the environmental challenges facing humanity.

This year’s ‘Think Green Khutbah Campaign’ challenge is to request all Muslims to live according to the S plan:

a)    live a simple life

b)     live a sustainable life

c)     live as stewards of the environment

Please visit the website, http://khaleafa.com/greenkhutbah/, for more information and where you will find links to resources which can provide you with ideas and information to prepare the Khutbah or to engage your congregation.

Please sign up online if your organization will join the campaign and if you will be delivering a Khutbah on the environment on Friday, April 20th, 2012.

Our Moral Voice Must be Loud on Climate Change

Our moral voice must be loud on climate change

By Muneeb Nasir

“The moral voice needs to be loud and not marginalized,” she said. “We tend to deal with climate change as an environmental, economic, scientific or technological issue, but how often do we deal with it as a moral issue.”

May made the remarks while delivering the keynote address at the Green Awakening Network (GAN) and Greening Sacred Spaces (GSS) Fourth Annual Forum, Green Choices for Faith Communities“, held at the Noor Cultural Centre in Don Mills on Sunday, March 25, 2012.

Elizabeth May decried the Canadian government’s environmental policies and track record.

“I recognize the importance of the separation of church and state – currently, I don’t think that is our challenge,” she said. “Our current challenge is the separation of oil and state.”

May stressed that the climate change crisis requires that political partisanship be put aside in favor of cooperation.

In her welcoming remarks, the President of the Noor Cultural Centre, Samira Kanji, told the gathering that the Centre is a place for learning and the celebration of culture, while respecting the diversity in peoples and religions as directed by the Qur’anic verse, “We have created you male and female, and have made you into nations and tribes, in order that you might come to know one another.”

The two sponsoring groups, Green Awakening Network and Greening Sacred Spaces, said that the purpose of the forum was for faith communities from the Greater Toronto Area to come together for ‘a day of inspiration and practical help’, especially those ‘wishing to seriously take their commitment to ‘live with integrity’ in creation.’

The forum included a series of six workshops in three tracts – Eco-Justice, Eco-Spirituality and Eco-Practice – as well as, displays from vendors offering environmental products and services.

Two churches were recognized with the Greening Sacred Spaces Awards for their efforts to green their congregations.

This year’s award recipients were the Newtonbrook United Church and St. Gabriel’s Passionist Parish.

“Greening Sacred Spaceshas an important mission of helping faith congregations to green their buildings and communities,” said Donna Lang, Toronto Representative of Greening Sacred Spaces, in announcing the awards. “It is our belief that faith communities are the lighthouses of environmental hope and change.”

In the workshop on Reconnecting with the Heart & Spirit: Pathways and Experiences, Dr Mishka Lysack, an assistant professor at the University of Calgary, looked at ways for those passionate about eco-justice to sustain their work and ongoing engagement.

“One of the more promising ways of encouraging environmental citizenship lies in cultivating the growth of biophilia, what the Harvard biologist, E.O. Wilson, calls the innate ‘urge to affiliate with other forms of life,’” said Professor Lysack.

He noted that signs of biophilia are found in a human’s love of life, “Think of a child who is irresistibly drawn to an animal or stories that are filled with animal characters or plants or natural landscapes.”

In the workshop on Pipelines, Petitions and Public Witness: Current & Emerging Issues for Canadian Faith Communities, John Dillon, Economic Justice Program Coordinator of KAIROS looked at ways faith communities can follow up on the Inter-Faith ‘Call for Leadership & Action’ issued last October.

The Alberta tar sands, its impact on the environment and rights of Indigenous Peoples, were highlighted in this session.

“We are at another moment in our history where we need to re-establish out treaty obligations with Indigenous Peoples,” said John Dillon.

This sense of being at a pivotal juncture with regards to environmental stewardship, and drawing from history and values to respond to the climate crisis, was a common thread through the afternoon’s proceedings.

In her keynote address, Elizabeth May asked the audience to reflect on the common values and characteristics that have defined Canada.

Quoting Canadian author, John Ralston Saul, May described Canada as being underpinned by First Nation values, and influenced by the wilderness and sense of collectivism.

“Canada is about taking care of each other and not about selfish individualism,” she said.

The Green Awakening Network (GAN) is a group of congregations of the United Church of Canada in the City of Toronto that come together to share ideas and experiences, in partnership with others, on how to respond to the challenge of climate change and how to reduce our “carbon footprint.”

Greening Sacred Spaces (GSS) is a practical program developed by Faith & the Common Good group to assist faith communities in greening. Faith & the Common Ground (FCG) is an interfaith/intercultural network formed in 2000 to engage faith communities and civil society organizations in eco-sustainability, economic and social justice and health.

“Our thanks go to the forum’s gracious hosts at the Noor Centre; to the presenters, exhibitors and volunteers who generously contributed their time and energy and to the participants whose enthusiasm and critical perspectives made the forum a success,” GAN-GSS said in its post-event press release.

Muneeb Nasir is a well-known community activist, writer and public speaker on religious and societal matters and is highly respected for his knowledge and involvement in religious and current affairs.

He is the Managing Editor of the online magazine website, Iqra.ca, which provides a Muslim perspective on current issues  and a freelance contributor to a number of online web sites. He was the Managing Editor of the IMPRINT newspaper and Editor of the community magazines, AN-NUR and Al-Basheer

Muslims Look to Green their Community

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By Muneeb Nasir

What is your concept of a green community?

This was one of the questions posed at a roundtable discussion of Canadian Muslim environmental leaders and activists held on Sunday, March 18 at the University of Toronto’s Multi-Faith Centre.

The event titled Think Green: Creating Sustainable Communities brought together community activists to discuss what it means to green the Muslim community, as well as, how to identify and implement environmental initiatives within a diverse community.

“While there has been some success in practicing the Islamic teachings surrounding the environment, there lacks a central forum among Canadian Muslims for the exchange of ideas and recognition of our community’s accomplishments,” Muaz Nasir, one of the organizers of the roundtable, told IQRA.

Nasir is the Publisher of the ecological website, Khaleafa: A Sacred Trust (www.khaleafa.com), which spearheaded the event along with the Muslim Students’ Association, University of Toronto-St George and the Muslim Presence Network; IQRA.ca was the media sponsor.

The roundtable participants engaged in a lively discussion that was framed by three questions:

1) What is your concept of a Green Community? (mosques, community centers, educational institutions, workplace, etc.)

2) What projects or initiatives would you like to see implemented in your community? 3) What are potential/experienced limitations that might exist within our community?

The organizers hope that the input from the roundtable would provide the basis and impetus for moving forward with a green agenda for Canadian Muslims.

The program included a presentation by Asma Ali, another organizer of the roundtable and a representative of Greening Sacred Spaces.

Ali outlined some of the programs that are being offered by Greening Sacred Spaces to Faith communities.

Ali told the gathering that Greening Sacred Spaces is a practical program to assist Faith communities with both the educational and spiritual dimensions of greening as well as the "how-to" side of audits, retrofits and generally reducing the faith community's footprint.

Muaz Nasir also spoke briefly on some practical actions that can help in creating sustainable communities – through water conservation, waste reduction and protecting natural resources.

He hopes that Muslims can highlight the contributions Islam can bring to environmental awareness.

“Many Muslims are revisiting their faith in an effort to identify the contributions Islam can bring in promoting greater environmental awareness,” he said.

Muneeb Nasir is a well-known community activist, writer and public speaker on religious and societal matters and is highly respected for his knowledge and involvement in religious and current affairs.

He is the Managing Editor of the online magazine website, Iqra.ca, which provides a Muslim perspective on current issues  and a freelance contributor to a number of online web sites. He was the Managing Editor of the IMPRINT newspaper and Editor of the community magazines, AN-NUR and Al-Basheer

 

Upcoming Event: Think Green - Creating Sustainable Communities

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Event Details: As interest in the environmental movement continues to grow, many Muslims are revisiting their faith in an effort to identify the contributions Islam can bring in promoting greater environmental awareness. Muslims across the world have quickly adopted and adapted the green movement; spearheading new projects in their own communities and collaborating with other faith groups to address a broad range of common issues, ranging from animal rights to water management. Within Canada, Muslims are already involved in a diverse range of projects aimed at encouraging conservation, reducing waste and participating in ecologically-sensitive consumption. While there has been success in practicing the Islamic teachings surrounding the environment, there lacks a central forum for the exchange of ideas and recognition of our community’s accomplishments.

Khaleafa.com in association with Iqra.ca, Muslim Presence and the Muslim Students Association at the University of Toronto will be hosting a roundtable event to discuss ways Muslims can create sustainable communities in their mosques, community centres and educational institutions. This networking event will bring together those involved in the environmental field to exchange ideas and develop infinitives’ that could be undertaken in our local communities.

Registration: To assist in planning, we ask that you register prior to the event at www.khaleafa.com/ThinkGreen. There is no cost associated and the event is open to the public. Please note, spaces are limited.

Date: Sunday March 18th 2012, 1-3pm

Location: Koffler House (569 Spadina Ave), otherwise known as the Multi-Faith Centre, is located on the north-east portion of Spadina Crescent, north of Russell Street and south of Wilcocks Street on the University of Toronto, St. George Campus.

TTC On the Bloor line, the closest subway stop is Spadina station. Walk south on the east side of Spadina Avenue from Spadina subway station.

On the University line, the closest subway stop is Queen’s Park station. Take the College streetcar west from Queen's Park station, exit at Spadina Avenue, and walk north on the east side of Spadina Avenue.

Parking Surface parking is available across from the Multi-Faith Centre and can only be accessed from the north end of Spadina Crescent. Underground parking is available on Huron Street, just north of College Street.The entrance to this lot is on the east side of Huron Street, between Russell and College Street.

If you have any questions or require special accommodations, please contact: info@khaleafa.com.

About:

Khaleafa.com is a Muslim environmental website promoting environmentalism through the teachings of Islam. The goal of this website is to reignite the discourse surrounding the Islamic approach to environmentalism and to draw upon the essence of these teachings, emphasizing the movement from a Canadian perspective.

IQRA.ca is an online magazine based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It provides an ethical perspective with a Muslim focus on current events and contemporary issues and aims to attract ‘people who reflect’.

Muslim Presence is a network promoting common values and active citizenship based on a contextualized reading of Islam, an open identity, and a harmonious co-existence within this society.

Our Common Voice: Protecting the Life Sustaining Gift of Water

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Mosaic Interfaith held its Annual Peace Meal this past Sunday at St. Luke’s Parish in Thornhill, Ontario. The event brought together leaders of different faiths to discuss pressing issues relevant to their congregations. This year’s theme was entitled “Our Common Voice: Protecting the Life Sustaining Gift of Water” and included a diverse range of speakers from the academic, religious and government backgrounds. The topic of water as a religious metaphor is present in all faiths. However, its future management depends on the recognition of its importance and the development of proactive and innovative conservation techniques.

Stephen Scharper, Associate Professor with the Centre for Environment at the University of Toronto was the keynote speaker and presented some of the spiritual, ethical and social justice issues pertaining to water management in Canada. He touched upon the Aboriginal relationship with water and how it is traditionally viewed within the family unit. He also shared his own poetic insights into the representation of water in faith and the importance of blending eastern philosophy with western science.

Cheri Buxton, an Environmental Technologist with York Region, also spoke of some of the water efficiency initiatives the region is involved with and introduced some elements of their recently released water conservation plan. Throughout her presentation she tied together the message of conservation from the individual to the community level and related its significance to future generations which resonated with the audience.

The second portion of the event involved a panel discussion and brought together representatives from seven faiths to share their perspectives on water. The panelists included Michael Kerr (Buddhism), Antoinette Agostinell (Christianity), Cliff Rajkumar (Hinduism), Prof. Hussein Khimjee (Islam), Rabbi Cory Weiss (Judaism), Raghbir Singh Samagh (Sikhism) and Dr. Jehan Bagli (Zoroastrianism).

All faiths expressed the importance of water as a sacred blessing to be protected and conserved. There were several themes that overlapped between the panelists which highlighted the similarities between the religions when it comes to water management.

1)    Water as a symbol of growth and rebirth: Within the Buddhist tradition, water was described as representing the nurturing and cultivating aspects of humanity. It brings forward life where it is barren and hydrates the mind, body and soul. In Christianity water is blessed and used in baptismal rituals as a rite of passage and in Judaism prayers are recited for rain during the growing season. 2)    Water as a path to purification and cleansing: In the Islamic tradition, water is central to spiritual purification before prayers, pilgrimage and at death. In Zoroastrianism, water and cleanliness are linked where cleansing of the body is seen as an avenue to cleansing the mind. Within Sikhism water is seen as a path to humility, as it always flows downwards and it plays an important role in daily ablutions. 3)    Water as a divine miracle: In the history of the Christian and Jewish faith, water was described in several miracles from Moses parting the Red Sea to Jesus changing water to wine. These miracles are celebrated today, often encompassing rituals involving water.

The lecture portion concluded with a ceremonial breaking of the bread with each representative reciting a prayer to bless the meal. The general response to the seminar was overwhelmingly positive with many participants eager to learn more about what they can do as individuals to ensure water remains a central tenant of their faith.

Mosaic Interfaith currently organizes the Out of the Cold program which provides overnight shelters during the coldest parts of the year and is operated by six interfaith communities in Southern York Region. For more information, please visit their website at: http://www.miotc.ca/

Cleaning up our shared spaces

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The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup rolled in on a high note this year with events scheduled across the country.  The week-long event was initiated by the Vancouver Aquarium over a decade ago and has grown into an annual national event that aims "to promote understanding and education about shoreline litter issues by encouraging Canadians to rehabilitate shoreline areas through cleanups." In 2010 alone, there were over 45,000 registered participants at 1,200 cleanup sites collecting a total of 98,000 kg of waste.

This year the Canadian Muslim Fellowship of Scouting participated in a clean-up at the Finch Meander located in the Rouge Park. The event brought together members of the public and the Muslim community and fostered a sense of stewardship among all participants. Some of the more unusual items that were collected included discarded tires, a remote control and old mattrasses. Many of the scouts and their parents indicated that the cleanup made them reflect on the amount of stuff that gets thrown out, especially when it comes to excessive packaging. At the end of the event there was a renewed sense of pride by all participants over what was accomplished and the positive contribution that was made to the environment.

For more information about the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, please visit: http://shorelinecleanup.ca/en

Food, Health and the Environment

"Eat from the good things with which We have provided you and do not transgress [or oppress others] therein, lest My anger should descend upon you. And he upon whom My anger descends has certainly fallen."             (Quran, 20:81)

This past Sunday, community members and activists came together to exchange ideas about the importance of making environmentally conscious and socially responsible food choices. The event focused on the health implications of the foods we eat and was fourth in a “Focus on Food,” Film & Discussion series offered through the Noor Cultural Centre in Toronto.

The event opened with a screening of a National Film Board documentary entitled Genetic Takeover or Mutant Food, which explores the rise of transgenic crops and the unknown health effects of genetically modified (GM) foods on human systems. The film highlighted the need for more research, stricter regulation and greater transparency when reviewing and approving GM foods for consumption. It also brought to light the issue of commoditization of the Earth’s resources, specifically manipulating the genetic makeup of plants and terminating its right to propagate. The film closes by stressing the importance of placing the public good ahead of corporate profits and following the precautionary principle before releasing GM products into the environment.

The discussion component was facilitated by Georgina Wilcock, a medical doctor specializing in Obstetrics and Gynecology who currently practices at the Scarborough Hospital. She has been an active participant in the environmental health field, running for the Green Party of Canada in the 2008 federal election and continues to support the party as its Health Critic. She is also involved with the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and the Live Green Toronto initiative.

Georgina opened with a presentation examining some of the health issues associated with the foods we consume. The overuse of pesticides and the associated resistance have significant consequences within our own bodies and the environment at large. Chemicals that act as hormone disrupters, pesticides that bioaccumulate and toxins that persist in the environment are serious concerns in addition to the unknown health implications of GM foods. Meat products also have their own inherent health issues as well. Animals that are raised in feedlots face extreme stress from living in confined conditions and are given high doses of antibiotics to stave off infection. This contributes to lower quality meat that is higher in bacteria and lower in omega fatty acids. Georgina then poses the question of whether this is humane and does this follow the Islamic teachings of how animals should be treated?

Throughout the discussion several suggestions were offered on how we can both lessen our environmental footprint and eat healthier as well. These include:

1) Reducing the amount the meat we consume and to purchase meat that has been ethically and humanely raised; without the use of antibiotics or steroids and is fed a natural diet. 2) Purchase certified organic produce or better yet, try your hand at growing your own fruits and vegetables to ensure that it is completely natural and pesticide free. 3) Consider purchasing from local farmers so you can directly ask how your food was grown and how their animals are raised. Building relationships with farmers offers your piece of mind and supports your local economy.

For more information about upcoming events at the Noor Cultural Centre, visit their website or join Khaleafa.com on Facebook for future event postings.

Photo credit from Tantek Çelik

MuslimFest Goes Green

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MuslimFest is an annual event held in Mississauga that recognizes and celebrates the Muslim arts, culture and entertainment industry here in Canada and abroad.  Every year it draws upon talented professionals, entrepreneurs and artists and showcases their work to the broader community. These include projects across the artistic spectrum, from visual arts and film to live comedy and theater.

This year the organizers have taken proactive steps to ensure the event is as environmentally friendly as possible. These include measures such as:

-          Partnering with Bullfrog Power to ensure the event uses 100% green energy

-          Offsetting carbon emissions through purchasing credits from Zero Footprint

-          Eliminating disposable plastic water bottles and replacing them with access to water filling stations

-          Reducing the waste generated by marketing and print material through smaller print sizes and quantities

-          Diverting waste products to the recycling stream where possible

A Green Exhibit was also was introduced at this year’s festival, to educate the community on conservation practices and introduce them to local environmental leaders.

For more information on the green initiatives at Muslimfest, please visit: http://www.muslimfest.com/muslimfest-is-green/

Photo Credit from Umar Nasir: http://iqra.ca/?p=5770

Translating our Faith into action: making a difference for the environment

Members from Toronto’s faith groups gathered this past Sunday to discuss a common theme affecting their congregations: What can we do to make a difference in the environment? The event entitled “Translating our Faith into Action: Making a Difference for the Environment” was organized by OIKOS in conjunction with the University of Calgary with the goal of equipping faith communities with the necessary resources to translate their spiritual teachings into effective public action.

Keynote speakers included Bishop Linda Nicholls from the Anglican Church of Canada, Shaikh Habeeb Alli from the Canadian Council of Imams and Rabbi Rav Roy from the Canadian Yeshiva and Rabbinical School.

All three panelists shared their experiences on the ethical and spiritual responsibilities all faiths have as stewards over the environment and brought to light several commonalities their traditions share including a communal responsibility over the earth and mutual respect for all creation.

Also contributing to the dialogue was Keith Stewart from Greenpeace Canada, who is also a member of the Green Budget Coalition.

This alliance of environmental organizations provides annual recommendations in advance of the federal budget and has a history of working with all levels of government to achieve long-term environmental sustainability, a key theme that carried throughout the event.

Among his insights on the green movement in Canada, Keith outlined several components faith groups can adopt to incorporate environmental advocacy into their spiritual teachings and how together this can be used as a learning tool to educate their congregations about the importance of the natural world.

Three avenues were presented where faith groups can utilize resources already present within their respective communities to increase their exposure to environmental issues:

1)     Ability to draw strength from their religious convictions: Faith groups can encourage an alternate perspective on environmental advocacy which resonate with politicians as they generally speak the language of society and represent a set of common shared values.

2)     Ability to raise issues that are unpopular or inconvenient: Issues that are politically sensitive can be discussed from a spiritual perspective, such as environmental implications on future generations, which generates dialogue in a non-confrontational setting.

3)     Faith groups have powerful resources within their congregations: Members encompass a diverse range of individuals who wield power within the public and private sector. They also bring together a wide range of skills and ideas on approaching and resolving different issues.

For more information about OIKOS and links to future retreats, please visit http://www.ucalgary.ca/oikos/Retreat/